Behavioral Psychology

Do Not Let Frustration Infect Your Learning

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Most of the authority figures out there use negative reinforcements to elicit behaviors, which means that for most of us the process of learning involved desperately trying to avoid whatever the aversive stimuli embedded in the negative reinforcement was – a spanking, an unkind word, palpable disappointment, the loss of privileges, etc.

The result in adulthood is either a general aversion towards any kind of learning or the need to do it perfectly right from the get go along with feelings of frustration when we invariably come up short. Even though there usually aren’t any authority figures present when we’re learning on our own, for many of us their specters make up part of our super egos. They continue to exert a profound affect on our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, on our orientation towards the object of our learning.

It might be largely unconscious but when you feel frustration rise up in you due to not performing as well as you’d like while pursuing an endeavor you should stop and remind yourself it doesn’t have to be that way. The desire to do well is totally understandable and should be positively reinforced but it can exist without negative judgments, without frustration. You can go hard but you don’t have to be hard on yourself.

The first thing to realize is cognitive behavioral, and it’s that your current expectations for how well you should be doing are probably unrealistic. You might very well be doing that well in a few weeks, or a few months, or a few years, and it’s good to have that goal, but even if you’re trying your hardest and doing your best you’re probably just at a lower skill level right now. That image in your head of where you need to be is unattainable in your current reality. You need to be congratulating yourself for your victories, however small they might seem, and you need to be placing the emphasis on the progress you’re seeing in yourself, however incremental it might be.

Authority figures may have used negative reinforcements with your learning in the past but you’re in charge of your learning now and you can choose to use positive reinforcements with yourself instead. You’re going to get better a lost faster and probably go a lot farther in your chosen interest when you approach the process of learning with a non-judgmental attitude. Your psychic energy is like an endless well when you take on this non-judgmental attitude, you feel good about yourself and where you’re going most of the time, and this makes you work harder and longer during sessions. When you’re constantly feeling frustrated your psychic energy is definitely not an endless well, it’s on a metered timer, you get easily tired out and you look for excuses to quit. Even when you did well you believe you didn’t do quite well enough.

If you’re trying your best you are doing well enough, you’re doing exactly what you’re supposed to be doing right now, you’re doing as well as you’re capable of doing at this moment in time. What you have to do is find the level of difficulty in your endeavor where it’s challenging but doable. If you’re doing that and you’re constantly adjusting the level of difficulty to match your progress you’re going to get good faster and before long you’ll be as good as you so desperately wanted to be.

Do not let frustration infect your learning. Do not let negative judgments infect your learning. Instead just resolve to do the best you can, to work hard to improve a little bit during every session. Congratulate yourself for the effort you’re putting in and for the incremental progress you are making.

Greetings I'm Michael, the owner of Evolution Counseling and the author of all the articles on this site. I got my master's degree from Seattle University in community mental heath counseling and have committed myself to advancing my knowledge of psychology and to evolving my own philosophical system ever since. In addition to the content on this site I offer online coaching using Skype. If you'd like to learn more about it click on the online coaching tab or if you think you'd like to set up a session send me an email at evolve@evolutioncounseling.com.

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